Senior lawyer Maiava Visekota back under radar of the Samoa Law Society

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The Acting President of the Samoa Law Society has confirmed that a “special seven-member committee” made up of lawyers has been appointed to investigate Senior lawyer Maiava Visekota Peteru.

This is in connection to Maiava’s conviction of contempt of court in a ruling issued by Justices Robert Fisher and Raynor Archer in March. 

They cited Senior lawyer Maiava’s “scale of contempt is not comparable to that of” the former Prime Minister and HRPP Secretary, as she is an officer of the court.

Maiava was found guilty of contempt of court with the leader of the Human Rights Protection Party Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi and Secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, as a result of a complaint brought on by FAST and Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, for undermining the court’s authority pertaining to the decision on electoral matters.

In an interview with the media today, outside of court Alex Su’a confirmed the investigation is based on the complaint by members of Society.

“It is a normal process taken after any complaint is filed against a member of the Society to follow its regulatory framework.”

Su’a declined to identify who the seven-members lawyers are tasked to investigate the complaint against Visekota.

The Acting President was unclear as to a timeframe the investigation will undergo, but noted “once the investigation is complete the [committee] will submit their report to the Council.”

The 39-page decision handed down by the Court indicated that Maiava in an interview broadcast on television and radio described the Court’s decisions as “dishonest” and said that the current Prime Minister “is bold because … she has the judiciary”.

“The scale of her contempts is not comparable to that of the first and fifth respondents. “On the other hand, her views carried the extra weight expected of a lawyer.

As an officer of the Supreme Court, she ought to have known better,” the decision reads. 

The Justices also noted that her statement to Court: “should any of my, comments have the effect of diminishing public confidence in the Judiciary and judicial decisions I unambiguously accept that a retraction is in order” and “Should any statements made by me … including an inferred link with the FAST party, have diminished the public perception of the standing, the integrity, and impartiality of the Court, I unambiguously apologise.”

The Justices noted in the ruling: “We are not impressed by conditional retractions and apologies of that kind. They imply that the speaker remains unconvinced.”

According to the ruling, the very purpose of Maiava’s public remarks must have been to persuade the public that at least in that instance they could have no confidence in the integrity of the Judges.

“There is nothing doubtful or contingent about the effect public remarks of that kind would have had.

“She has brought dishonour on her profession and that penalty would have been appropriate” due to special circumstances in line with the Harmony Agreement mentioned above.

In 2019 the Samoa Law Society suspended Maiava, pending an investigation by the Society’s Tribunal. The following year the Law Society issued a statement indicating that Maiava pleaded guilty to professional misconduct in mishandling client funds.

She was suspended by the Tribunal, which was backdated to when she was first placed on suspension by the Society.

Efforts were made to get comments from Maiava but were not successful as of press time.